‘Bend the Curve’ gives entrepreneurs straight-talk advice
Kellogg lecturer Andrew Razeghi’s new book gives advice on accelerating a startup's success By Cheryl SooHoo
Been there, done that — really, really well.
With their practical experience, highly successful entrepreneurs serve as invaluable mentors to new business founders. They have actually walked the walk and created thriving businesses from scratch. No one knows this fact better than those running startup accelerators. Their success often relies on providing access to the nation’s top entrepreneurial minds through fiercely competitive startup crash courses.
“Every day we have entrepreneurs offering priceless advice to small groups of people looking to start up and scale up,” says Andrew Razeghi, a limited partner in Techstars, a leading mentorship-driven seed accelerator company, and a mentor at its Chicago location. “Then that information dissipates into the ether.”
Intent on reaching a larger audience, Razeghi, a lecturer on innovation at Kellogg, has captured a number of entrepreneurial tales from the front lines in a new book, Bend the Curve: Accelerate Your Startup’s Success (FG Press). The book covers many startup basics — from extreme bootstrapping and creating a culture to the science of going viral — via the practical advice of heavy-hitting mentors in Chicago’s rich entrepreneurial community. Not surprisingly, Razeghi drew upon the startup talents of Kellogg, featuring several alumni and faculty.
“There’s a completely opaque world of knowledge that only comes from literally sitting down, knee to knee, with a mentor,” Razeghi explains. “In the book, we speak to what really matters to founders and their businesses. For example, in the legal issues section, we could have simply discussed the law. Instead, Esther Barron [director, Entrepreneurship Law Center at Northwestern Law] offers not only the mechanics of legal issues facing entrepreneurs but lessons learned only through experience such as the best form of legal advice she could give is to ‘be friendly.’ Basically, don’t tick people off. Companies only have legal issues when someone is not happy.”
Other straight-talking guidance includes:
- Stay scrappy. Never lose your frugal mindset even after you’ve raised capital, says Chuck Templeton ’06, founder of OpenTable. “Most successful entrepreneurs . . . wrestle with every nickel before it goes out the door like it was their last — giving their company the longest runway possible to get the job done.”
- Run the numbers. Identifying what creates value and what it costs to do so is critical to business success, says Joe Dwyer ’08, venture capitalist, serial entrepreneur and adjunct lecturer at Kellogg. “By using unit economics,” he advises, “you’re not always going to be right, but you’re going to be a lot less wrong!”
- Where’s the money? Attracting investors starts with building a financial model that clearly shows how you came up with your revenue line, says Troy Henikoff, managing director of Techstars Chicago and partner at Math Venture Partners.“As an entrepreneur and now venture investor, I will tell you that nine times out of ten, venture investors look first at revenue," says Henikoff, also an adjunct lecturer. Revenue generation is the most important part of the business to the investor.”
Razeghi has essentially created a backstage pass to Techstars and other accelerators like it. “Given the hyper competitive acceptance rates of startup accelerators (more competitive than entrance into Kellogg and the Ivy League),” he says, “we hope that many more founders can experience the benefits of an accelerator program without actually being in one."